Oldest Charities and Organizations That Help Endangered Animals
Without wildlife, life as we know it wouldn't exist. We wouldn't exist. It's all too easy to get so swept up in our busy lives that we forget we're animals, too, reliant on our planet's natural resources to survive. Everything in our world is connected. Helping endangered animals survive isn't just for them. It's also for us, ensuring that planet Earth remains a beautiful oasis of living things for future generations of humans and other animals alike.
Most threats to biodiversity are human-made. It's our responsibility to repair what we broke from the ground up. Dozens of organizations dedicate their work to wildlife conservation, but these 10 animal charities are among the oldest and top-rated.
Year founded: 2008, rebranded 2021
Mission: “To protect and restore the wild to build a thriving Earth where all life flourishes.”
Impact and transparency rating: RE:Wild has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. According to its 2020 financials, the organization spends 92 percent of its income on conservation and restoration programs, 1 percent on fundraising and 7 percent on management.
Bottom line:Re:Wild started in 2008 and was relaunched in 2021 with the help of actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Its primary focus is to guard and restore the biodiversity of native species across the globe. Its strategy involves thoughtful collaborations with governments and local communities to restore habitats in the world's key biodiversity areas, in which many vulnerable species reside.
The organization also collaborates with park rangers and like-minded organizations to combat poaching and habitat loss. So far, Re:Wild has protected more than 279 million acres of land, helping over 16,000 species. It's also responsible for bringing the Tasmanian Devil back to mainland Australia for the first time in thousands of years.
Year founded: 2001
Mission: “Dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale.”
Impact and transparency rating: Oceana has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Bottom line:Oceana was created by a group of organizations in response to a study from the late 1990s that indicated only 0.5 percent of resources generated by environmental charities in the U.S. benefited ocean life. Now, Oceana is the most expansive international organization for ocean conservation.
Its main focus is on promoting changes in governmental policies to change harmful fishing practices and help reduce pollution in our waterways. So far, the organization has helped keep almost 4 million square miles of ocean safe and has won 225 policy cases affecting marine wildlife.
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8. Save the Elephants
Year founded: 1993
Mission: "Our mission is to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world; and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species."
Impact and transparency rating: According to its 2022 financials, Save the Elephants spends 90 percent of its funds on research, environmental protection, tracking programs and awareness-building programs. The remaining 10 percent goes to fundraising events and administration.
Bottom line:Save the Elephants is one of the oldest wildlife nonprofits dedicated exclusively to the protection of elephants. The organization is registered in the U.K., and its founder, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, still serves as president and CEO. Save the Elephants primarily studies the behavior and social dynamics of wild elephants to inform the organization's conservation and anti-poaching efforts.
The nonprofit also works on maintaining and restoring natural habitats and protecting against human encroachment. It's also educated 20,000 children in northern Kenya on the importance of elephants and how to help them, not to mention disbursing over $31 million to elephant organizations in 40 different countries.
7. PADI AWARE Foundation
Year founded: 1992
Mission: “To address the key threats facing the marine environment.”
Impact and transparency rating: Padi Aware has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and holds a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Bottom line:PADI Aware is the fastest-growing organization pushing for sustainable diving practices. The PADI organization is the largest scuba diving organization worldwide, and its Aware program encourages divers to volunteer to remove plastic and other pollutants from dive sites.
The program also helps conserve over 300 threatened species through shark conservation and sustainable tourism projects. To date, it's removed 2 million pieces of trash from the ocean.
6. Jane Goodall Foundation
Year founded: 1977
Mission:"Our mission is to support wildlife research, education and conservation. We promote informed and compassionate action to improve the environment shared by all Earth’s living creatures."
Impact and transparency rating: The Jane Goodall Foundation holds a three-star rating with Charity Navigator, and 80 percent of its proceeds went to animal welfare and conservation programs in 2021.
Bottom line: Jane Goodall is the world's most famous chimpanzee conservationist. Widely recognized as the leading expert on chimpanzees, the primatologist's foundation predictably focuses on environmental protection, community outreach and education. For chimpanzees to thrive, locals need sustainable livelihoods that work in tandem with conservation efforts, not against them. Goodall's foundation gives locals, particularly women and girls, the tools they need to take care of themselves and the environment.
So far, the organization has saved 3.4 million acres of habitat, published over 480 research papers and engaged with 130 different communities. As of 2023, there are 290 chimps and gorillas in the care of a sanctuary sponsored by the Jane Goodall Foundation.
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5. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Year founded: 1963
Mission: “Saving species from extinction.”
Impact and transparency rating: According to its 2021 report, about 60 percent of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust's proceeds go to conservation efforts.
Bottom line: The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust was founded in 1963 by Gerald Durrell. It currently operates 50 different conservation projects based out of the Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersey, which is primarily an endangered species sanctuary located within the Channel Islands. The organization revolves around breeding programs, helping to rebuild wild populations of vulnerable species.
The organization also trains future conservationists to manage conservation programs successfully in the decades to come. So far, it's released over 4,100 animals into safe native habitats.
4. World Wildlife Fund
Year founded: 1961
Mission: “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”
Impact and transparency rating: The World Wildlife Fund has a three-star rating from Charity Navigator and holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Bottom line: Founded by Victor Stolan in the 1960s, the World Wildlife Fund is the largest conservation organization in the world. It operates projects in 100 countries and helps protect natural diversity by educating local communities and governments on sustainable-living practices.
Additionally, the organization protects a variety of endangered species by reducing incidents of human-animal conflict, tracking animal populations and reducing habitat destruction. So far, it has helped double the population of tigers in Nepal and created a safe passageway for millions of wildebeests to complete their annual migration.
3. Charles Darwin Foundation
Year founded: 1959
Mission: “To provide knowledge and assistance through scientific research and complementary action to ensure the conservation of the environment and biodiversity in the Galapagos Archipelago.”
Impact and transparency rating: According to its 2021 financial report, the Charles Darwin Foundation spent 65.8 percent of its proceeds on conservation, research and educational projects, with the rest going toward fundraising and administration.
Bottom line: No, the Charles Darwin Foundation wasn't founded by Darwin himself. It was, however, inspired by his research in the Galapagos, as the charity only focuses on preserving the ecology of the Galapagos Islands. The islands are home to species found nowhere else on Earth, so protecting them is critical. The foundation helps eradicate invasive species that damage local flora and fauna. It also serves to manage the islands with sustainable development projects.
The foundation has a natural history collection of over 80,000 specimens from the Galapagos, making it the biggest collection in the world. In 2020 alone, the foundation discovered 61 new species in the Galapagos.
2. Defenders of Wildlife
Year founded: 1947
Mission: “Dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.”
Impact and transparency rating: Defenders Of Wildlife has a three-star rating from Charity Navigator and the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Bottom line:Defenders of Wildlife was founded by conservationist Jamie Rappaport Clark. She's one of the leading experts on the Endangered Species Act, and Defenders of Wildlife has become the most well-regarded conservation organization targeting North American wildlife. It develops recovery plans, helps build wildlife corridors to avoid conflict with humans and is working to develop conservation plans to help at-risk species survive the planet's changing climate.
So far, Defenders of Wildlife is responsible for more than 100 projects preventing human conflicts with grizzly bears and wolves. It's also helped save the endangered Scarlet Macaw and the last population of red wolves.
1. Wildlife Conservation Society
Year founded: 1895
Mission: “Saving wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.”
Impact and transparency rating: The Wildlife Conservation Society has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and earned a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Bottom line: The Wildlife Conservation Society focuses on the world's 14 most important wild regions containing more than half of the world's species. And it does so with tact, using the expertise of 170 veterinarians and PhDs to take the most impactful steps toward endangered species preservation possible.
Most of its efforts are concentrated around the protection of the most wide-ranging endangered species, like elephants, large cats, turtles and sharks. It has donated $21.9 million to support wildlife adaptation in the U.S. alone. It also helps manage 245 national wildlife reserves and advocates for the expansion of national parks and protected forests.